Seven Projects Receive Leana Endowment Grants for 2023-24

August 25, 2023

The Lenesa Leana Endowment for Innovative and Collaborative Education was established to honor the innovative strategies and collaborations that former Head of School Lenesa Leana fostered during her tenure at Belmont Day. The endowment provides grants to teaching and non-teaching faculty to support the many ways our community explores and implements innovation with the spirit of collaboration from the classrooms, art studios, and science lab to the kitchen, administrative offices, playing fields, and beyond.

For the 2023-24 school year, grants have been awarded to support teams to pursue the following seven innovative ideas:

Sensory Hallway Paths and Displays
Faculty: Betty Chu Pryor, Geoffrey Fox, Abbey Nyland, Larissa Rochford, and Leigh Twarog

A sensory pathway, or sensory hallway, is often a colorful, interactive, and creative way for children to build connections in the brain and assist children in completing complex multi-step tasks. These tools are also an ideal way for students to develop fine and gross motor skills, such as balance, hand-eye coordination, and spatial awareness. A sensory pathway can be as simple as decals stuck to a wall or a floor, but can also be quite complex. The goal is to create sensory pathways in common areas of the Schoolhouse and the Barn that are frequently traveled and accessed, such as the wall outside of the courtyard door across from the kindergarten, the wall between the Labyrinth bathrooms, and more.

Biking Program for PE and Summer Camp
Faculty: Alex Tzelnic, Abbey Nyland, and Zach d’Arbeloff

Biking is an essential skill, especially in a world in which the population is growing and the climate is changing. Making biking part of physical education and our summer camp programming can impart a lifelong means of wellness and transportation, as well as set us apart from peer schools in committing to fostering this ability. This project will allow us to replace our older trikes with modern equipment, and utilize best practices in incorporating biking into pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and first grade as well as our summer camp experience. This will ensure that all our students learn how to bike as a core foundation of their lower school physical education experience and will have the opportunity to continue to build those skills with mountain biking units in fifth grade and mountain biking team participation in middle school.

Rediscovering the Labyrinth
Faculty: Lana Holman, Angela DeVecchi, Larissa Rochford, and Emily Crawford

With the pandemic finally behind us, grades 3, 4, and 5 are back together in the Labyrinth. The time is now to reinvigorate the hallways and program and revisit the original plan for the Labyrinth, which was written soon before Covid put those efforts on hold. This grant would offer the opportunity to refresh the hallways and breakout spaces and the time to plan Labyrinth cross-curricular events. Ideas include a mosaic entry sign, more color added to hallways, a community board, more seating options, a common lending library, shared recess bins, and more.

Grade 6 Field Lab to MassMoCA
Faculty: Anne Armstrong, Kathy Jo Solomon, Chris Parsons, Susan Dempsey, Bill Smith, Tyler Cotner, Kassie Bettinelli, and Brittany Conroy

After a successful pilot trip with grade 6 to MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Mass.) in April 2023, the arts team is planning another grade 6 trip in the spring of 2024, again to MASS MoCA. This grant will allow the team to investigate and hopefully add the following ideas:

  • Follow-up presentation for the wider BDS community to share the impact, discoveries, and connections generated by the field lab experience.
  • An arts trip as a yearly endeavor within grade 6. 
  • A cross-disciplinary element/focus within arts disciplines for the new innovation coach
  • Other possibilities/destinations to explore as an element of our overall work.
Expanding Outdoor Learning Spaces for Auxiliary Programs
Faculty: Blair Fross and Anderson Santos

The grant will provide funds to design and create dedicated and thoughtful outdoor space, which allow our teachers to bring broader and more intentional outdoor learning opportunities to our Auxiliary programs. This collaboration will be mindful and holistic around our equipment/furnishing needs and capitalize on our knowledge of innovative building projects. The goal is to build more cohesive structures with an eye toward supporting curriculum, which will set the foundation for extending naturalism and connections with the outdoors and expand on the success of our After School, Enrichment, and Vacation Camp programs.

Talk, Listen, and Learn: Podcasting at Belmont Day School
Faculty: Ana Maria Restrepo and members of the Arts department

This project will seek to design and equip a podcast studio that can be used by students and teachers for academic projects and club time. Creating a podcast studio for the school will open up opportunities for students not only to share their learning with a wider community but also to practice important spoken language skills. Scripting and producing a successful podcast requires and builds leadership, collaboration, and creative skills. Further, podcasting encourages students to deepen their thinking about a topic as they consider the audience and synthesize their learning.

Interactive Digital Displays
Faculty: John O’Neill, Annie Fuerst, Anne Armstrong, and Jade Morris 

How can we highlight the incredible work happening at BDS using modern, interactive displays? The ability to have a touchscreen that shares useful information, exhibits beautiful galleries, and provides insight into programming for visitors could transform campuswide digital display and lead to a cohesive way to spotlight our history, values, and vision. The screen(s) will rotate through a selection of BDS highlights and offer visitors to our campus the chance to find out more about our school by choosing their own adventure, touching the menu options that intrigue them, and seeing videos and pictures that speak to their interests.


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